The first stage of the Eastern Busway from Panmure to Pakuranga is currently under construction and is the first step in giving much needed high-quality public transport to East Auckland, one of the most poorly served areas in the city for PT. But as the name implies, stage one is only the start and the plan has always been to extend it from Pakuranga to Botany.
Last Friday, Auckland Transport announced they would start the procurement process for the combined stages 2, 3 & 4 which would get the busway to Botany and the intention is to have construction start in 2022 and be completed in 2025.
Thousands of new jobs in the infrastructure sector will result from Auckland Transport’s announcement to proceed with a Registration of Interest (ROI) for an integrated design, engineering and construction partner consortium to deliver the remaining stages of the $1.4b AMETI Eastern Busway project between Pakuranga and Botany.
The contract value for the construction phase alone will be $450m – with the total spend on stages 2, 3 and 4 being $700m. As the agency responsible for delivering the project, Auckland Transport will form an alliance partnership with the successful consortium.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the decision to proceed with the next three stages of the Eastern Busway makes the project one of the biggest investment decisions across the whole of Auckland.
“It represents a total spend of $700 million, with huge benefits for expanding rapid public transit, cycling and walking as well as easing pressure on traffic congestion,” he says.
“Coming as we recover from the COVID-19-induced international recession, it will create a much-needed boost to jobs and incomes and assist Auckland’s economic recovery.”
Targeted for completion in 2025, stages 2, 3 and 4 of the project will extend the rapid transit network, high frequency busway currently under construction between Panmure and Pakuranga, and from Pakuranga Plaza through to Botany Town Centre.
The project will include the congestion-free busway along Ti Rakau Drive, major stations at Pakuranga and Botany Town Centres, a flyover connecting Pakuranga Road with Waipuna Bridge, along with extensive cycling, walking, placemaking and environmental improvements.
AT will also include social procurement measures as part of the tendering process. This will require commitment from suppliers to deliver positive environmental, cultural, social and employment outcomes – such as local community employment and upskilling, during the design and construction phases.
Shane Ellison, Chief Executive of Auckland Transport, says that in addition to the economic benefits of a large-scale contract being launched to the market, the concept of forming an alliance to fast-track overall design, consenting and construction of the whole project is also a major factor in this procurement; with enhanced focus on improving community and transport outcomes while reducing impacts through greater industry collaboration and access to expertise and resources.
“This is the first time AT has adopted the alliance model and it is the best option for a project of this scale and complexity. Forming an alliance is a tested tool for delivering complex large-scale projects across the world and some good local examples include the Waterview Connection, Northern Corridor Improvements and Wynyard Edge,” Mr Ellison says.
The Eastern Busway Alliance will be formed in late 2020, and will move quickly towards finalising design and working to lodgment of consent in 2021, followed by construction of the full works in 2022. The Alliance also provides the opportunity to target early enabling works in advance of the main construction works.
The overall AMETI project is one of the longest running and slowest to deliver projects in Auckland. The project was born out of the failed Eastern Motorway scheme of the early 2000’s and the general design for it has been unchanged for about a decade. Yet despite often being cited as the second most important project in the region after the City Rail Link, and long having had support from both sides of the political aisle, the project has taken an age to get to this point.
Once completed the busway will undoubtedly be popular as when combined with an easy transfer to train at Panmure, will enable people to reliably get from Botany to the city centre in under 40 minutes. From memory, previous predictions have suggested that 5 million people could use it annually but if we get back to the way things were heading pre-covid, it could end up much more.
The biggest issue with AMETI though has always been that it is about implementing the busway without sacrificing even the slightest amount of vehicle priority or capacity – and some parts further entrenching it. Much of this feels like slavishly adhering to a traffic model instead of questioning it.
Pakuranga is destined to become an even greater sea of roads and cars, both on the surface and in the air thanks to the Reeves Rd Flyover bisecting the town. Around the world cities are looking to rip out structures just what AT have been planning.
AT justify the flyover by saying it’s about getting traffic out of the Ti Rakau Dr/Reeves Rd/Pakuranga Hwy intersection and yet despite it, the intersections are still many many lanes wide thanks to dedicated lanes nearly for every single possible movement at intersections. All these lanes will only serve to make it harder and less attractive to walking as well as making it difficult to cross the road.
Even where they’ve got the flyover replacing Reeves Rd, AT still can’t seem to bring themselves to make it fully bus only. Are we going to end up with buses to/from Howick being held up by cars circling the mall looking for a carpark? Buses will already have longer trips from the dogleg via Reeves Rd – although by doing so it does at least open up options for transferring.
Another quirk is if you look at William Roberts Rd, you can see two cul-de-sacs are being created after AT cuts off the road from Pakuranga Hwy. The northern one appears to be to serve just two houses. Can’t they be served by a driveway, or alternatively why not get the likes of Panuku or Kainga Ora in there to buy them and a few others up and redevelop them. Where are the value engineers when you need them?
East of Pakuranga the busway moves to run in the centre of the road and will see many of the smaller side roads become left in / left out intersections.
Another example of the over-indulgent road provision is at the intersection with Gossamer Dr. Here’s what Gossamer Dr looks like today from the intersection, a two lane, tree lined road.
Yet the plans appear to show it being widened to 5 lanes to cater for all types of traffic movement. at the intersection taking out trees on at least one side and the front of some properties. On Ti Rakau there’s even left turning lanes, again likely as a result of of too much reliance on the modelling.
The busway will continue like this further east towards botany. At this stage there are no plans AT have made public for where the Botany station will be or what it will look like. It would be good if AT could release that soon.
The final thing worth noting with all of these plans is just how much land take is needed. Swathes of houses will be demolished to make room for the busway and surrounding roads